Welcome 2019

Start Strong—Start Now!

Sharon Zalsos Banaag

Leizl Oandasan inspires many with her determination and self-discipline. It is evident in a noticeable change to her body structure, but also to her personality, confidence, and self-image that she exudes and carries well.
Photo: Leizl Oandasan

Merry Christmas to you! My family health issues really helped me in my weight loss.” A strong why from Leizl Oandasan of Kahului, past president of the Santo Niño Club of Maui, which flourished under Oandasan’s leadership. In addition to her involvement with the Santo Niño Club of Maui, Oandasan is also a supervisor at Marriot, Kā‘anapali, a mother of three and a grandmother. She loves to travel and is involved in the Visayan community statewide. How does she make time for her health? “Since my Dad died from colon cancer and my Mom is a dialysis patient, and I myself have my own health issues, I decided to join a nutrition program.” According to Oandasan, this program is comprised of four components which includes Free Education, Health Coach, Health Community and Food. Armed with dedication, determination and self-discipline, Oandasan achieved her goal to drop unnecessary weight, and more importantly, to live a healthier lifestyle.

She was so inspired by her now health coach who also lost fifty-seven pounds after being in the program for eight months. To witness someone’s health transform from bad to good, Oandasan wants to also inspire others with her own success story. Now, as with anything in life, there are challenges and hurdles to be faced. For her during this weight loss, it was rice. “I grew up eating rice all my life, three square meals a day included rice. Food with high amounts of sodium and sugar; I had to change my eating habits to that of healthy foods. My liquid intake is half of my body weight,” she added. “I stand by my passion to pay it forward and also inspire others. Should anyone in the community be interested in making a life change and live healthier, I am happy to help and make myself available to coach them as well. Message me on Facebook.”


Myrna Baggao Breen won the International Multi Sport Expo: Natural Body Building competition in 2014.
Photo courtesy Myrna Baggao Breen
Myrna stands with other worthy competitors
Photo courtesy Myrna Baggao Breen

Another example is Myrna Baggao Breen, who four years ago won the International Multi Sport Expo: Natural Body Building competition. Not only did Breen conquer her challenges, she also dominated in the competition. And to think she was already over fifty years old when she competed. Her competitors were ten to twenty years junior. Her secret? “Fitness is about attitude, nutrition and exercise,” shared Breen. “If you can wake up to go to work, you can wake up to go to the gym to train.” Breen believes good nutrition starts in our own kitchen. The ability to control the ingredients in your food is powerful. She is also a big proponent of eating clean. Now, what does this mean exactly? Basically, it means eating whole foods in their most natural state and avoiding processed foods such as refined sugar. Clean eating may simply mean saying no to gluten, grains, and dairy products and yes on eating raw food. A boiled sweet potato for instance is better than enjoying a slice of sweet potato pie. Have boiled eggs for breakfast or a snack to replace your egg burrito to go. Skip the slice of cake at parties and have an orange or a plate-full of sliced fruit medley—food at its most natural state.


Chris Dee (right) motivated me by telling me that she doesn’t “work with lazy and unmotivated people.”
Photo courtesy Sharon Zalsos Banaag

About this time in 2012, I was seated next to my good friend and personal trainer, Chris Dee, who is also a DJ for 94.3 FM. I asked her what it takes to be trained by her. I told her how lazy I was and I couldn’t stand the thought of working out. “Oh, then I can’t train you. I don’t work with lazy, unmotivated people. But I’m sure you can always find someone else,” Dee replied. Wow. I was stunned but not for a loss of words so I followed my inquiry by asking what simple things could I start doing to propel me to move forward to a better health. At that time, I was fifteen pounds heavier than what I wanted to be and less energetic for sure. I was only thirty-four years old, so I knew I didn’t have any excuse to be so sluggish. Dee gave me simple steps to follow and follow those simple steps I did!

1. Make a decision in your mind to make a change and off you go. It means now. Not tomorrow morning when you wake up; not after New Year when all the good eatings are done; make a decision…NOW!

2. Wake up in the morning and drink a protein shake.

3. Do stretches in the morning starting with ten minutes of simple stretches, followed by a ten-minute walk around your neighborhood. Just do something every day to move your body.

4. Plan your meal and pack your own lunch. Have boiled eggs, fruits, veggie snacks, nuts and lots of water. Have yogurt for snack with berries but no granola (too much sugar and grain). Have a sensible lunch with salad with protein (chicken or steak). If you really need to have rice, make it brown or wild rice but a small portion of quinoa for grain as it’s high on protein. For snacking have a slice of fruit with cottage cheese and hydrate. Always have munchies ready and don’t be hungry.

5. For dinner, have protein and veggies like broccoli, beans, cauliflower, etc. Snack on cottage cheese and sliced pineapples too if you get the urge to snack after dinner and hydrate.

I followed her meal plans guide and without working out, I lost ten pounds in thirty days. And I didn’t skip a meal. Replacing rice, potato, pasta and bread was a simple brain choice. But I had a ready replacement which helped with the transition. What propelled my health over the top was getting a personal trainer (no, it wasn’t Dee) and being on a training regimen four to five days a week, fifty minutes a day. Thank you Mike Labuanan. He was not the nicest trainer to ever walk the planet but boy did he kick my behind in shape! Labuanan is a no-nonsense trainer. I didn’t have time to whine or complain since I was too tired to talk. Labuanan graduated with a degree in physical fitness. This wasn’t only a certificate on the wall for him, this was his life’s passion. Labuanan is sought after by NFL players when they vacation on Maui and not to mention well-known local celebrities who are on a first name basis with him. Seeing and hearing how hard he is on them as well, as professional as they are already, made me respect the trainer that Labuanan is. Absolutely no exceptions for him. His gym, his rules, my result. Simple.


Time is a precious commodity that cannot be replaced when it comes to realizing your health goals.
Photo courtesy Sharon Zalsos Banaag

After two years, I moved to training with Coach Nante Manangan, a boxing and life coach from Southside Maui. Coach Nante, as most will refer to him, is the opposite of the former. Coach Nante’s goal is to push you to your limits but also to encourage you to like the sport and training that you are engaging in. He welcomes everyone willing to work out and doesn’t charge a cent. He will take donations for his boxing club which to this day still boggles my mind how this amazing individual can stay in business since the 1990’s. Athletes such as Mike Tyson and Leila Ali trained in his small little boxing ring which is—get this—inside his garage! Both athletes sought this character of a person with his signature Rod Stewart silver hair style. They trained under his roof and won their belts thereafter. Ali retired undefeated.

So, what exactly do we have to look forward to in 2019 in terms of Wellness Trends?

#1 on the list is Eco-Ketogenic. Oh boy. As if Keto wasn’t enough, now they added Eco. This must be the P.R. for marketing diet trends and how to make more earth friendly. 2019 brings us the Ketogenic diet as it already soared in 2018. It has been labeled as Keto Reset Diet, which basically means, if you tried this in 2018, you can do it again in 2019. It is completely anti-carbs, grains, sugar. Instead, it favors lots of veggies, animal fat and meat. So where exactly is the eco in all of this? Because of the popularity of this diet, it has been highly criticized for lacking eco-friendliness on how meat is handled. So now, there is a shift in focus towards meat friendly handling which is required to help prevent a negative impact on the planet long term. Oh my, so basically, Eco-Ketogenic is an eco-conscious adapted concept where the same high-fat, high protein principles that work for those on Keto, just without animal product. Much too much for me. Keto claims to boost one’s energy level while crushing cravings and calming the inflammation.

#2 Rowing is the new Spin! I admit, I still have a gym membership from Planet Fitness from the summer and I’ve been in that gym three times since then. It’s December and meanwhile, my automatic deduction is still happening. A perfect time to insert LOL in my statement. Just being real.

Move aside spin fanatics, rowing is the hottest trend these days. The glammed up boutique gyms specializing in niche areas of fitness. Turning the horrid looking 1980s gym to a sexy, trendy place to be seen. Another trend prior to rowing is my personal favorite, Boxing Boutique. My kind of boxing training of course is less the sexy, glammed up boutique though.

2019 is the year that will see a rise of dedicated, glammed up rowing studios. I should check to see which of our Maui gyms will be featuring more of these bad boys. A great way to get a head start for 2019, I will be touring Maui to see our workout facilities.

#3 in Wellness Trend is the Rise of the mesonutrient! In 2018, we learned to separate our macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbs) from micronutrients (which is vitamins and minerals). Now, ready yourselves to start obsessing over our mesonutrient because we want to know more about the food we take in our bodies to include the actual, active compounds inside those ingredients. For instance, curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. This delivers anti-inflammatory and anti-aging benefits that the super-spice is famous for. This explains why citizens from India have been using Turmeric for almost everything in their food and even to paint their skin! Most Turmeric have 400 mg of curcumin. Now, to extract 400 grams of curcumin from a turmeric root, you would need to eat around 220 lbs. of it. Yikes! That’s more than my body weight. Fytostar is another example. This one is found in green tea which offers high strength of extract containing about 300 mg per capsule. In Greek, Macro means big, and micro means small so meso-means literally inside. Other macronutrients include anthocyanin in red and purple foods such as cherries and lycopene in tomatoes—both rich in antioxidants. A very trendy mesonutrient is Saffronal which comes from the spice saffron. This is highly studied for its antidepressant, appetite suppressing and libido boosting benefits. When you see saffron rice on the menu, try it! To buy good quality saffron can cost anywhere from $12.99 for 1.5 grams to over $299.95 per 75 grams.

We can present success stories after stories but it all boils down to you. What is your state of health as we conclude 2018? Are you at your optimum level? Or would you like to ring in 2019 with a list of resolutions to do. My suggestion is to start now and ring in 2019 already ahead of the game. It’s simple to start—just make a decision. Know what you want changed in your current health and go from there. With a plethora of fad diets here and there, be very careful about starting on the new trend. Breen highly suggests consulting your personal physician prior to starting a new diet regiment. I am not a fan of any diets. The root word die is enough to deter me from starting anything that end with the word diet. Atkins Diet, Keto Diet, South Beach Diet, Vegetarian Diet, Zone Diet.
Instead, I recommend a change in our lifestyle and eating habits. A diet plan to me is meant to be temporary. It is not mean to be a long term fix on health. The reality is most diets are started because we have to lose an inch or so before a special event. I know, I was just in my wedding gown a couple of months back.

Coach Nante Manangan of Southside Maui, a boxing and life coach became my trainer.
Photo courtesy Sharon Zalsos Banaag

Sharon Zalsos Banaag is a past president of the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce (three terms) and has her own marketing business: Kalona International LLC. She’s also an ACN Independent Business Owner. A former Miss Maui Filipina, Sharon played the lead in MAPA’s presentation of Miss Saigon. A graduate of Maui High School, Sharon is employed with the County of Maui and a proud Veteran of the United States Air Force.